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Prior to the Vikings signing Kirk Cousins, I wasn’t totally sold on him. From a skills standpoint, I thought he was better than Teddy Bridgewater and significantly better than Case Keenum. After watching his introductory press conference, though, and watching film of Cousins, I’m totally thrilled he’s the Vikings’ QB for the near future.

What’s most obvious is the fact that he’s a leader. Questioning whether he’ll be the face of the franchise shouldn’t take much time. He’s straight from central casting. Vikings GM Rick Spielman perhaps put it best when he said “I spent two-and-a-half hours with him and his family and then got a chance to meet his parents last night before we went to dinner, spent some time with them, and you knew right off the bat. I didn’t need to spend two-and-a-half hours; I needed to spend 10 minutes with him and his family to know what they mean, what they’re about and what’s important to them – and it’s everything that checks the box here with the Minnesota Vikings.”

From an arm talent standpoint, Cousins is high quality. From an intangibles standpoint, he’s outstanding. Watch this video of Thursday’s introductory press conference at TCO Performance Center and you’ll see what I mean:

Something that jumped out for me was that Cousins said he’d met a bunch of Vikings at the Pro Bowl after the 2016 season and that he immediately knew that they were genuinely a tight-nit group. He said all 32 teams talk a good game that way but that the Vikings immediately showed that it wasn’t talk. The impression I got from Thursday’s press conference is that this guy is CEO smooth and he can’t wait to put in the hours to become this team’s leader.

As for the people who’ve highlighted Cousins’ record as a starter, that’s the past and it’s irrelevant. This guy is the definition of a leader. Keenum knew how to maximize his performance despite his less-than-impressive arm talent. Cousins’ arm talent is light years better than Keenum’s. Cousins can drive the ball down the field with velocity whereas Case Keenum had to put everything he had into his deep throws.

Mentality-wise, Cousins plays with a chip on his shoulder because he’s been underestimated all his life. He was drafted in the 4th round in 2012, the year when Andrew Luck, RG III were the first 2 picks and Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round. In fact, he and RG III were picked by the Redskins. RG III was an instant celebrity whereas Cousins went to work learning the playbook. Now RG III’s career is virtually over and Cousins just signed the richest contract in NFL history.

I have no doubt that Mr. Cousins will be the impressive face of the Vikings franchise for years to come.

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Last year, the Vikings got shredded in the NFC Championship Game by the now-world championship Philadelphia Eagles, finishing the season 13-3 while handily winning the NFC North. On the plus side, they finished far better than the Sporting News predicted. They predicted that Detroit and Green Bay would both finish 11-5, with the Vikings finishing 8-8 and the Bears finishing 3-13. NFL.com predicted that the Lions would win the NFC North. It wasn’t just that they predicted this outcome.

It’s what they didn’t say, writing “Admittedly, this is a tough sell. Predicting the Lions will win a division they haven’t ever won (the NFC North was formed in 2002) already feels shaky after two sentences. Yet, there are reasons to think Detroit could pull off beating out Green Bay for the top spot. Start with addition by subtraction, as the Lions signed former Packer guard T.J. Lang in free agency. General manager Bob Quinn further bolstered the offensive line by adding tackle Ricky Wagner. Each should help running back Ameer Abdullah stay on course. Abdullah merely needs to stay healthy. This team was on its way toward winning the NFC North last year until Matthew Stafford injured his middle finger. How many teams can survive their starter hurting his throwing hand in the midst of a playoff run? No major injuries and no Hail Marys might mean an end to the days of merely sneaking into the postseason.”

They didn’t even mention the Vikings. (That’s the definition of a snub.)

Going into the 2018 season, everyone will have their eyes on the Vikings. Kirk Cousins is their starting QB. For the first time in his career, he’ll play behind a rock-solid O-Line. For the first time in his career, he’ll have a plethora of weapons to attack with. Never has he had the opportunity to throw to Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Kyle Rudolph and Dalvin Cook. Never has he had a running game featuring Dalvin Cook.

With this collection of weapons, though, comes high expectations. Winning the NFC North is a worthy goal but it isn’t the only expectation. Paying $84,000,000 guaranteed over 3 years gives the Vikings the reasonable expectation of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at least once in those 3 years.